ANAHEIM — When he first got here, Cam Fowler moved in with Scott Niedermayer and family.
There are trophies in that house. Seven years later Fowler is putting together his own mantelpiece.
On Thursday, Fowler played more than 28 minutes in the Game 4 overtime survival test at Nashville, the one that tied the Western Conference finals, 2-2, with Game 5 on Saturday at Honda Center. He has topped 30 minutes twice and he averages 26:43. That would be second in the NHL to Erik Karlsson if Fowler, who missed the first series, had played enough to qualify. Fowler is also playing a team-high 51 seconds per shift.
He is out there dancing with stars every night. He is on the penalty kill and the power play. He is running the game now, which was Niedermayer’s role in four Stanley Cup seasons.
It’s not a fair comparison yet. But it does dampen the assumption that the Ducks lack the elite defenseman required to play for another Cup.
Each champion, they say, has to have a True One, whether it’s Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty or Nicklas Lidstrom.
But sometimes that title is bestowed in retrospect, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pittsburgh’s Chris Letang was the defensive star of last year’s Stanley Cup run. He has missed this entire postseason and the Penguins are back in the Eastern Conference finals.
You can calculate the chicken-egg factor all you want. The point is that Fowler has done a lot of hard miles to get here.
He was thrust into the lineup at 18 years ago, in Randy Carlyle’s first team. He played under the sword of tough plus-minus numbers. He became tentative at times. Perhaps the trade rumors had an effect, as well as the return of the coach who first believed in him.
This was the season Fowler made the All-Star Game and scored a career-high 11 goals. He is 25, with a lot of ice time left.
“He (Niedermayer) always told me to be confident, to trust my skating,” Fowler said Friday. “It always starts with me being assertive with the puck, not having…